By Bob Thiel
What is Halloween? Where did it come from? Is it a holiday that the God of the Bible approves of? Do Halloween and Christianity belong together?
Halloween is an old English word which means “hallowed evening.”
It is now specifically observed by many on October 31st.
Origins of Halloween
Halloween contains many of the remnants of an autumn holiday celebrated by the Druids called Samhain (apparently pronounced “sah-van” though some say SAH win or SOW in–and apparently meaning “summers end”).
There historically have been pagan figures with names that are similar to this. For example, there was a Celtic hero named Samain or Sawan who supposedly owned a magical cow.
In other pagan religions, there was Samana (“the leveler”) the name of an Aryan God of Death (a.k.a. Yama, Sradhadeva, Antaka, or Kritanta) according to the ancient Veda scriptures of Hinduism and Shamash was the Sun God of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Some of the idea for modern costumes came via France.
Essentially, the timing of Halloween seems to be related to certain movements of the sun. Notice the following:
Halloween is date of astronomical interest. It has to do with seasons: Halloween is a cross-quarter date, approximately midway between an equinox and a solstice. There are four cross-quarter dates throughout the year, and each is a minor holiday: Groundhog Day (Feb. 2nd), May Day (May 1st), Lammas Day (Aug. 1st), and Halloween (Oct. 31st).
“Long ago, the Celts of the British Isles used cross-quarter days to mark the beginnings of seasons. Winter began with Halloween, or as they called it, Samhain,” says John Mosley of the Griffith Observatory.
“Halloween marked the transition between summer and winter, light and dark — and life and death. On that one night, according to folklore, those who had died during the previous year returned for a final visit to their former homes. People set out food and lit fires to aid them on their journey — but remained on guard for mischief the spirits might do.” (Spooky Astronomy. http://spaceweather.com/ present 10/31/07).
Notice that in Asia, versions of this day, somewhat like the Celts and the pre-Hispanic Mexicans, it is celebrated near the first of August:
Japan has its own Halloween-type celebration known as “O-bon,” an old Buddhist holiday meant to honor ancestors. It takes place in mid-August or July. Graves are visited and cleaned, food offerings are made, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide spirits, and a ritualized dance called “bon-odori” takes place to welcome them. On the last day of O-bon, to guide spirits on their journey, the Japanese partake in a ceremony called “Toro nagashi,” in which paper lanterns are floated down a river.
O-bon originates from the Chinese Buddhist celebration of “Ullambana,” which has the same notion that during this time, spirits are able to move among us.
The Ullambana Sutra, a traditionally Indian story, is the scripture that addresses this day, with the story of Mahamaudgalyayana, a disciple of Buddha, whose mother had been reborn into a lower realm. Though interpretations of the story vary, Buddha’s instructions to his student mirror modern practices of the day, which is to offer food and pray for the souls of both living and dead relatives. People also would give donations to monks.
The current celebration in Taiwan and China of the Ghost Festival pays homage to this Buddhist holiday, but includes the practices of burning money, clothes and goods, which are believed to then make it to the spirit world in full, as well as the release of paper boats and lanterns into rivers (Meaning, sanctity of Halloween is lost in translation St. Cloud Times, MN – Oct 21, 2007 http://www.sctimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071021/OPINION/110210041/1006/NEWS01).
Hence, the foundations of Halloween include many items that certainly are not of Christian origin.
Satan has successfully gotten many of his holidays endorsed by many cultures and religions of the world.
There is actually also another day, somewhat like Halloween, that is observed April 30th mainly in parts of Europe, which is called Walpurgis Night (otherwise known as the Witches’ Sabbath). It is also not Christian, though some have tried to tie it in with a Catholic saint.
One improper claim of the origin of jack-o’-lanterns is somewhat amusing.
The Irish have a story that a man named Jack died who was too much of a miser to be with God and was not allowed to be with the devil since he had played practical jokes on him. Since Jack had nowhere to go, he was to walk the earth carrying a lantern until Judgment Day.
In Ireland, originally, carved turnips were used for jack-o-lanterns, though most now use pumpkins.
Here are some more likely origins:
According to historian Ronald Hutton, in the 19th century, Hallowe’en guisers in parts of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands commonly used jack-o’-lanterns made from turnips and mangelwurzels. They were “often carved with grotesque faces to represent spirits or goblins”. In these areas, 31 October to 1 November was known as Samhain and it was seen as a time when spirits or fairies were particularly active. Hutton says that they were also used at Hallowe’en in Somerset (see Punkie Night) during the 19th century. Christopher Hill also writes that “jack-o’-lanterns were carved out of turnips or squashes and were literally used as lanterns to guide guisers on All Hallows’ Eve.” Some claim that the jack-o’-lanterns originated with All Saints’ Day (1 November)/All Souls’ Day (2 November) and represented Christian souls in purgatory. (Jack-o’-Lantern. Wikipedia, viewed 04/05/15)
Guisers are people in disguises, such as mummers and those wearing a mask.
Certainly, jack-o’-lanterns are not biblical.
Adopted by the Church of Rome
Because of compromise with pagan practices, the Church of Rome ended up with a holiday at the same time as the one the Druids held. The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches:
All Saints’ Day
In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). (Mershman, Francis. “All Saints’ Day.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 11 Aug. 2013 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01315a.htm>)
Of course, “All Saints Day” was NOT a biblical nor apostolic practice. Furthermore, two points related to John Chrysostom and one related to Ephrem of Syria should be mentioned.
The first is that a careful reading of his 74th homily (which supposedly is where he declared this observation according to The Catholic Encyclopedia) shows that he discussed the deaths of prophets, but it is not clear to me that John Chrysostom declared the “Christian” observation of something that resembles “All Saints’ Day.”
The second is that John Chrysostom was a hater of Jews and was opposed to biblical practices, including the biblical Holy Days (John Chrysostom. Eight Homilies: Against the Jews. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom. Fordham University.). So even if he somehow was endorsing something, since he was NOT POSSIBLY a true Christian, his possible endorsement is irrelevant.
As far as Ephrem of Syria goes, he wrote that “Antichrist” would be against idols. The Bible is clear in Revelation 13 that this will not be the case as the two beasts mentioned both endorse idols/images.
For many reasons, including his lack of biblical understanding, Ephrem’s possible endorsement is irrelevant.
Furthermore, notice something from The World Book Encyclopedia:
The Druids, and order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween, ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches, and elves came out to harm people. They thought the cat was sacred and believed that cats had once been human beings but were changed for punishment for their evil deeds. From these Druid beliefs come the present-day use of witches, ghosts, and cats in Halloween festivities…The custom of using leaves, pumpkins, and corn stalks as Halloween decorations comes from the Druids. The early peoples of Europe also had a festival similar to the Druid holiday…In the 700s, the Roman Catholic Church named November 1 as All Saints’ Day. The old pagan customs and the Christian feast day were combined into the Halloween festival [Halloween. World Book Encyclopedia, vol 9. Chicago, 1966: 25-26].
We see that scholars recognize that pagan elements were incorporated into a festival that the Church of Rome decided it needed to have at the time the Druids had a similar celebration.
One article at the mislabelled Protestant publication Christianity Today starts out with the statement:
“I love Halloween” (Mendenhall D. A Halloween Solution. Christianity Today, October 31, 2005. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/novemberweb-only/13.0.html).
In the past Christianity Today has sold various trinkets associated with the observance of Halloween (one year, it was advertising Jack-o-lantern car magnets when I checked).
One headline at the mislabelled Christianity Today was:
“Why Should the Devil Get Halloween?” (Rivadeneira C. Christianity Today, October 29, 2010. http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2010/october/why-should-devil-get-halloween.html viewed 10/01/13).
Well the simple answer is that it is NOT a biblical holiday and the Bible says not to worship the true God like the pagans worshipped their deities.
Anyway, my main points are that Halloween is of pagan origin, it was not endorsed by the Bible nor the original Apostles, and that many have compromised to adopt it.
From the old Radio Church of God
Notice what The old Radio Church of God taught about the observation of Halloween:
What about you and your children? What comes to your mind when thinking about Hallowe’en? The truth of the Bible? Not at all! Instead, weird and FRIGHTENING MASKS — persons PORTRAYED AS WITCHES AND DEMONS. Pumpkins and turnips hollowed out in the shape of EERIE-LOOKING faces! Lighted candles are placed inside to help bring out the more frightful side of these carvings. Dough is baked into small figurines RESEMBLING WITCHES AND SPIDER’S WEB CAKES are baked by the dozen for this occasion. Children, dressed up in the most revolting garments, are let loose on the neighbors, trying to scare the daylights out of them. Let’s be honest. I have before me the Good Housekeeping’s Book of Entertainment, which my wife picked up from the local library. On page 168 of this much-read book, there is a section on what to do on Hallowe’en. Notice the astonishing advice given! “Halloween decorations are quite as important as the food. When planning them, remember that if the room is to be dimly lit (preferably by candle and FIRELIGHT) the decorations must be bold to be effective. Orange, black and red, THE DEVIL’S COLOURS, are the colours associated with Halloween and THIS SCHEME SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT as far as possible . . . . Have paper streamers and lanterns hanging from the ceiling, or, if you would like to have something less usual, you could make a giant SPIDER’S web with black and orange strings, or in narrow strips of crepe paper coming from the four corners of the room, complete with a LARGE SPIDER — one of the DEVIL’S FAVOURITE FOLLOWERS.” Notice where the stress lies! Read further of the black magic associated with this festival. “To decorate the walls, make large silhouettes of CATS, BATS, OWLS AND WITCHES ON BROOMSTICKS . . . . For the supper table small WITCHES WITH BROOMSTICKS can be made by using lollipops on 4-inch sticks.” Weird lanterns, witch-balls, and witches’ cauldrons are some other objects, the book suggests, which must fit into the evening somehow. How pagan can you get?
NOWHERE does the Bible command us to observe Hallowe’en. Hallowe’en and other common festivals which people observe in the Christian-professing world have NO BIBLICAL BASIS. They originated in paganism. The testimony of history stamps Hallowe’en as a HEATHEN festival. It’s built on a PAGAN FOUNDATION. Your Bible warns: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11). Which is the BASIS of YOUR practice and belief? Turn to Deuteronomy 12:29-31 and read God’s condemnation of Hallowe’en! (Marx, Gerhard O. The Origin of Halloween. Plain Truth Magazine, October 1967).
Despite the truth of this, many non-Catholics have also compromised to observe this heathen festival.
Jesus is the Same
The condemnation of such pagan practices remain in the Bible irrespective of the opinions of men to the contrary.
Remember the Bible teaches:
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines (Hebrews 13:8-9).
Neither Jesus nor true early Christians ever observed Halloween.
Certainly Halloween contains many pagan practices that Christians should realize are “strange doctrines.” Therefore, irrespective of the opinions and traditions of men, true Christians still do not celebrate pagan holidays like Halloween.
We in the Continuing Church of God do not condone the celebration of pagan holidays like Halloween nor similar days such as ‘Walpurgis Night.’
The light of scripture eliminates any ambiguity about Halloween. That is why we in the Continuing Church of God do not observe it.
The Bible has warnings about the time of the end:
12 lawlessness will abound (Matthew 24:12).
1 Now the Spirit expressly says in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. (I Timothy 4:1)
Halloween is a lawless observance that involves deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.
Notice something else the Bible teaches:
29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)
Halloween is not in the Bible, yet its observation is something that many have ‘added’ to their life.
Of course, the core of Halloween is a pagan holiday and should not be celebrated on any day, Sunday or otherwise.
Christians and Halloween do not belong together.
Halloween places emphasis on pagan religious practices, and participation in them is futile at best, and biblically considered to be abominable. Christians should rely on the Bible for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16), including doctrines related to the celebration of religiously related days. Halloween is clearly not a biblically sanctioned holy day and should not be observed by any who claim to believe the Bible.